I was going down a YouTube rabbit hole the other day and I ended up watching an old episode of TRL from the year 2000. Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears were hosting in Carson Daly’s absence. Besides the fact that Mambo #5 was on the countdown, I was reminded of something even more interesting.
 
Melissa Joan Hart starts talking about a contest TRL is running where audience members can submit original artwork to potentially be featured on TRL merchandise. She and Britney introduce the artists and share the designs on screen — all of which were hand-drawn sketches.
 
But what I found most remarkable was how Melissa and Britney called the audience to action. If others were interested in submitting their artwork to the contest, they couldn’t upload it to social media. They had to FAX it in. I couldn’t help but smile when TRL’s fax line popped on the screen: (212) 258-8719.
 
You can watch around the 3-minute mark here:
 

 
Think about how limiting this was. I imagine there were thousands of people who would’ve wanted to enter their designs, but the barriers to entry were high. They couldn’t fire their work off in an email, submit a form, or upload to social media. They had to have access to a fax machine. 
 
I wonder if marketing and social media managers know how lucky we are today. On a daily basis, our audience gifts us a bank of content we can share from our brand channels, with their permission of course. And on the other side of that, your audience has more opportunities to express themselves and share content that is meaningful to them. 
 
The opportunities for user-generated content are endless. We can receive unlimited content, all in an instant. But just because you could use UGC, doesn’t always mean you should. Let’s discuss some considerations when managing and sharing user-generated content. 
 
 

How to Make the Most of User-Generated Content

 
I’ll start with the hardest, yet most important tip. Screen your UGC! While we love content that is authentic, you should still have a level of standards before reposting a piece of content. Some UGC is good, but not good enough. Look for basic quality guidelines like image clarity, lighting, audio quality, etc. 
 
Ask yourself if you’re sharing this piece of content because it’s helpful, informative, or entertaining to your larger audience, or if you’re only sharing it simply to spotlight the original user. 
 
You can still express gratitude and show appreciation for the user without reposting their content. A simple DM, comment, or like on the post is often enough to make the user feel special. You’re not leaving them out, and they’re just as likely to keep posting just for being acknowledged. 
 
 
Also, remember there are certain etiquette rules when it comes to user-generated content. First of all, always ask permission before resharing it. Just because a user shared it on their own channels, doesn’t necessarily mean they’d like it broadcast to your entire audience. Plus, reaching out to thank them for the content and ask permission only strengthens the relationship. It’s much better than just taking their content without initiating a conversation. 
 
 
Okay, so now you’ve determined the UGC is high enough quality and you have permission to share. But your job goes beyond simply retweeting or reposting. In order for your UGC to have the most impact, you have to give it meaningful context.
 
This is where most UGC, including testimonials, falls flat. Unless the content does a great job storytelling all on its own, you will likely have to provide those additional details. 
 
For instance, let’s say you’re a realtor who is tagged in a photo your clients posted standing in front of their new house you helped sell. Rather than just reposting it, tell us more about the couple and how you met their needs. Give your audience something they can potentially relate to as well. Is this a young couple who is expecting their first child and needed more space? What were they looking for in a home and where did they find it? How desperately were they searching before you were able to help?
 
This added background helps your larger audience see themselves in the content, too, and realize that you have the solution they may need. “If it worked for them, it will work for us.”
 
 
Lastly, remember that attention is scarce. If you reshare every single piece of UGC without context or adding value, you will slowly chip away at your audience’s attention, and they may tune you out for good. 
 
For example, if you run a fitness studio and you often get tagged in your customers’ post-workout mirror selfies, resharing several of these back-to-back, day-after-day is BORING. There are only so many Boomerangs we can take! 
 
We’ve all seen those brands with endless Instagram Stories that don’t hold our attention. And don’t even get me started on those people who tag a friend in a post, then that friend reshares the tag, and then the original tagger reshares the tag! You’re just spamming your audience at that point.

 
 
Don’t just reshare so you have a steady stream of content. Reposting all of your UGC can be tempting, and it surely makes our jobs easier, but it can do more harm than good. 
 
You know how it goes… always make sure your content adds value. It has to be worthwhile.